Jack Ziebell has nominated better ball use as the key to North Melbourne halting their slide down the AFL ladder on Friday night.
The Kangaroos banked nine consecutive wins in their best ever start to a season but have since crashed to eighth and next face Collingwood in a must-win encounter at Etihad Stadium.
Ruckman Todd Goldstein and key forward Drew Petrie have copped the brunt of recent scrutiny during North’s five-match losing streak.
The criticism has grated Ziebell somewhat, with the vice-captain lamenting the way his team has butchered the ball in recent weeks.
“They’re very important parts of our side. It definitely isn’t just those two guys who haven’t been doing as much as they can, it’s on all of the leaders and the whole team,” Ziebell told AAP.
“There’s some different things that have fallen away a little bit.
“Our ball use is one that we can obviously do a lot better in. We can take a lot more ownership in making sure the ball gets to our teammate a lot cleaner.
“It has slipped and we have to work our butts off to get it back to where it was.”
Ziebell noted the Kangaroos’ forward line, including Petrie, have suffered because of their teammates’ sloppiness.
Petrie celebrated his 300th game in round seven but more recently hit the headlines when club great Wayne Carey suggested the 33-year-old’s time was up.
“You look at key forwards, even forwards in general, they rely on other people getting the ball to them,” Ziebell said.
“In the last month we haven’t been helping out big Drewy and the rest of our forwards in that regard.
“Hopefully we can give them more opportunities to kick goals and put a big score on the board.”
Ziebell echoed coach Brad Scott’s call for calm, saying all the ingredients were there for North to reproduce the early-season form that earned them top spot on the ladder.
“We just have to rediscover a bit of that flair and stuff that we had in the first half of the season,” the hard-nosed midfielder said.
“If we can do that, we know that we’re a good side and we’ll be a hard team to beat.
“There’s still plenty of football to be played this year.
“Not much has changed in terms of personnel (compared to the first half of the season). Obviously there’s a few guys out but the team we’ll put out is very, very capable.”